Spicy Beans / Spicy Citrus Beans

Spicy Beans

I remember sitting at my Gma’s dining table once, when I was living with her during college, reading M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating (one of her autobiographical books). Fisher’s husband had recently died, and she describes floating through life in a state of numbness. Normally a woman who relishes and treasures her food, she can hardly stand to eat. She goes on a cruise to Mexico, alone, and the crew seems to see the pain she’s in, and pays special attention to her.

She’s in the dining room one evening, and all the food seems drab and pretentious, and the waiter leans over to her and says, “There is an American kitchen and there is a country kitchen, side by side out there…”

He disappears, and then returns with a bowl of what the staff is eating, “light-tan beans cooked with some tomato and onion and many herbs.” She devours three or four servings, and relishes every bite, describing the “feeling of that hot strong food going down into [her] stomach [as] one of the finest [she] has ever known.”

I remember finishing that chapter… and then immediately making myself a pot of beans, and eating them with a warm flour tortilla and diced avocado while I dug in to the next chapter.

spicy beans and mexican rice on a plate

I have lived in Southern California all my life, which means that even though I’m a white girl, I have some decent experience with Mexican food. My mother makes great Mexican and Mexican inspired foods: tacos, enchilada casseroles… we even made big batches of (delicious) tamales together on occasion.

I’m comfortable with the onion-garlic-chilies trinity, and can usually whip up some Mexican-style foods without a recipe. Sometimes I just need a little inspiration, in the form of a meal at someone’s home or in a restaurant, and I’ll be off on a mission to replicate, simplify or build upon a recipe. (Do you ever obsess about food like this?)

This recipe developed over time, watching both my mother and mother-in-law make their beans, and seeking out the flavors I loved. I tend to used canned chilies for Spicy Beans, and fresh chilies for Spicy Citrus Beans, but either will work.

Leftovers

These are great wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla with some diced avocado, or mixed with some Mexican-Style Rice, leftover taco meat, and Mexican-Style Vegetables.
chicken taco leftovers medley

Spicy Beans / Spicy Citrus Beans

While I like black beans and pinto beans on their own, the addition of the onion-garlic-chilies trinity really makes them pop. The addition of the optional citrus changes the flavor profile significantly, so try them both. Using rendered chicken fat instead of oil really ups that richly satisfying quality of the beans.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. rendered chicken fat or pork fat ( alternate: Canola oil or vegetable oil)
  • ½ poblano or whole Anaheim chili, diced OR ½ (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
  • ⅓ medium yellow or brown onion, diced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pinto (or black) beans, including liquid
  • optional: juice of ½ a large orange

Directions

  1. Heat the fat in a medium pot over medium heat, and once the fat begins to shimmer, add the onions, chilies, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Sweat the chili and onion until softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
  4. Add the beans and their liquid as well as the orange juice (if using).
  5. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes until beans are the desired tenderness.
  6. Season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

The standard variation pairs incredibly well with Mexican-Style Rice and Mexican-Style Vegetables (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and microwave until tender and hot – 3 minutes, stir, 3 minutes, stir, 2 minutes) as perfect sides for Chicken Tacos.

The citrus variation pairs delightfully with The Smitten Kitchen’s Huevos Rancheros (which are delicious, although entirely unlike any Huevos Rancheros I’ve ever seen).

Guacamole Salad with Mango

guacamole_salad

I don’t usually have chips in the house – I find it’s a good way to keep myself from eating them. But occasionally we have guests, or are guests, and I inadvertently find myself camped out near the snack table. I’m a sucker for crudité platters, particularly the carrots, cucumber, and olives, and especially if the dressing is hummus or a mixture of homemade ranch and blue cheese. But my great love on the snack table is guacamole.

Guacamole is not, for me, a dip for my chip – the chip is a vehicle to transport the most obscene scoop of guacamole I can manage. I still wind up eating way too many chips, and since much of my family is the same way with guacamole, the entire bowl usually disappears within 5-10 minutes.

When I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa, it was too good to pass up. I tried it her way, and it’s good, but the avocado looked a little sparse, drowning in the other elements. I was immediately inclined to double the avocado – make it more guacamole-like. The salad was a huge hit. Some ate it like salad, while others ate it like a chunky dip, but everyone raved.

This became my default contribution at house parties. Then one day, someone mentioned it would be lovely with mangoes… and I’ve made it with mangoes ever since. They provide a brightness that accompanies the avocado beautifully.

Leftovers

Sadly, this doesn’t keep that well for too long. You can certainly eat it the next day or so, but the avocados are going to lose their color and will instead be a drab brownish green. So eat up!

Guacamole Salad with Mango

Serves 8-10
Inspired by Ina Garten’s Guacamole Salad
Allowing the red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic to sit in the lime juice a few minutes allows them to soften a little in texture and flavor, and impart their flavor to the dressing. If you prefer them to have a strong bite, just mix everything together at once. But definitely keep your avos whole until right before serving, else the salad may start browning by the time your guests see it.

Ingredients

  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup small diced red onion
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded & minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and ½-inch diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 4-5 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and ½-inch diced

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  2. Mix red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic into the lime-spice mixture and let marinade at least 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add grape tomatoes, bell pepper, black beans and mango and pour olive oil over top, and mix vegetables to incorporate well.
  4. When ready to serve, dice and add avocado, mix gently, and season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

This makes an excellent side for carnitas, all Mexican food, and  just about anything grilled (oh, it’s glorious over grilled fish), and doubles as a chunky dip.